By Alexander Ruggie, PR Director, 911 Restoration
True journalism isn’t dead, it’s simply struggling to emerge from the analog cocoon of print through a digital metamorphoses that is chaotic, and at times even repulsive. But much the same way that truth and advertising comingled during the early days of the printing press, they are doing so again today during the infancy of technologically infused journalism distilled through the filter of financial gain. Click bait as it is commonly called, is no different than an advertorial from yesterday, or a snake oil salesman at the county fair of yore.
Instinctively we as savvy consumers of information know the difference between advertising, opinion, and fact. Ultimately no amount of flashy pictures or well-worded headlines will change what we are merely interested in, and what we truly believe. Content marketing has pretty colors to it, and it is certainly eye-catching, but it doesn’t truly inform people of anything that they couldn’t find on their own through a well worded search.
True news is something that marketing firms and advertising agencies can’t generate on their own. The Arab Spring didn’t start because of sponsored content put out by a PR agency with the interests of a democratic society in mind. We didn’t learn about Bin Laden’s death because the Special Forces team that took him out was sponsored by Haliburton. And the world isn’t becoming acquainted with the nature of trans-gender choices because Caitlin Jenner advertised about it through click bait. Ultimately these changes made their indelible impression on the world because they were real, and embodied something that can’t be faked – freedom, revenge, and gender identity.
Real news, whatever form it takes is impossible to hide or ignore. Despite the best efforts of enormous multi-national corporations, journalism remains alive and well in the last bastion of life that remains impervious to digital influence – truth. That which is true does not need a sponsor, a spin, or search engine optimization. Truth at its core is what drives journalism and intrinsically the news business at large. While the transformation from pure news to whatever it is today, and then back into something viscerally tangible may be muddied with the confusion of sponsored content, paid search, click-bait, opinion pieces and even bad blogging now; it won’t be long before these ancillary revenue streams become vestigial and are either shed entirely, or split off to become something wholly new all on their own.
Just as when Gutenberg first printed pamphlets, flyers and other paper based advertising, today’s digital presses in the form of laptops and smartphones are churning out an unprecedented amount of junk for every piece of quality, truth-based content. This is the nature of exploring a new medium to reach the people with, and these tactics won’t likely stop until they reach a point of exhaustion, or evolve to become what they really are, all on their own.
While the blending of advertising, editorial, sponsored content and legitimate news is pervasive today, it is by no means permanent, or new. And as the shell of the cocoon cracks, out will eventually crawl the original form of true journalism – that which chases real stories – as it suns itself in the fresh light that is the dawn of a digitally driven world.